The Free Motion Quilting Project: How to Piece Log Cabin Blocks

Monday, January 8, 2018

How to Piece Log Cabin Blocks

Welcome back to the second week of the Machine Quilting Party! Today we're piecing the log cabin quilt blocks for the Rainbow Log Cabin Quilt. This is one of my favorite traditional quilt blocks because it's so easy to piece, but creates such a pretty effect on your quilt.

Learn how to piece a log cabin block in this quilting tutorial:

Are you looking for the Rainbow Log Cabin quilt pattern? Click Here to find it in the book Explore Walking Foot Quilting.

Just in case you missed the video from last week, click here to learn how to prepare and cut your fabricsI do advise prewashing your fabric, starching and pressing to make the pieces nice and stiff so they are easy to cut and also easy to piece together too.

Yes, if you prewash fat quarters, they are going to get a bit messy. Here's a photo of what you can expect from washing fat quarters in the washing machine:

It will take a bit of time to clip these apart and clean up all these stray threads, but this isn't a deal breaker for me. Personally I'd rather deal with tangle of threads now than deal with bleeding dyes in my finished quilt later.

If this does happen to you, clip apart all the fabrics and shake them out flat before throwing them in the dryer. If you dry the fabrics wadded and tied up like this, it will take a lot more time to pull them apart and press them flat later.

Seams Open, Seams Closed?

Now that we're getting into piecing, I know you're probably wondering about those seam allowances. I lower my stitch length when piecing to 1.5 mm to produce a very tiny, secure stitch. Because my stitch length is so small, I feel confident pressing my seams open.

I like seams pressed open on my quilts because I find this makes my blocks more accurately pieced and my quilt tops are flatter and easier to quilt over. This is one of those things quilters like to debate and many quilters strongly disagree with seams pressed open.

This fall I started taking on a lot of quilting debates on my podcast Hello My Quilting Friends! Click Here to find podcast episode all about pressing seams to learn more.

Trimming vs. Force Fitting

As I mentioned in the video, Dad and I had a piecing adventure as we created the Rainbow Log Cabin together. Dad's the best fabric cutter I could ever have because he was a machinist before working with fabric and he definitely knows how to cut accurately.

But his seam allowance is sometimes, well, a bit big.

Honestly it's not off by very much. I guesstimated Dad's seams are probably only 1 or 2 threads too wide.

I know, 1 - 2 THREADS?! Yes, that is enough to throw off a log cabin block because these blocks build exponentially from the center to the outer edges. By the time you get to the outer strips of the block, the pieced square could be as much as 1/8 inch off.

The best solution for this problem is to trim excess strip off. Force fitting the longer strip to the smaller block is going to create distortion and a ripply effect that will go on to haunt you in the quilting process. Just follow the steps I share in the video for trimming off the excess strip if you start to notice that show up in your log cabin blocks.

Yes, your blocks may end up smaller than the size listed in the book. That's fine! The key is consistency. Dad consistently pieces with a slightly big seam allowance, so all of his blocks ended up slightly smaller than they should have.

Quilting Homework 

This week our goal is to piece the log cabin blocks. Follow the instructions in the book to piece the blocks using the correct dominate / recessive color combinations.

Next week we will piece the blocks together to create our Rainbow Log Cabin quilt top!

I hope you're having a blast with the Machine Quilting Party. Remember you can always join in the fun and begin quilting along with us. You can find all the videos shared so far right here.

If you enjoyed this tutorial, please share it with your friends, and feel free to post the images and video here to Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram - where ever you like to hang out and share online! That really helps me out a lot and helps other quilters learn more about quilting.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. Great video as usual. Particularly liked the tips for correcting size problems when piecing log cabin blocks - this is one thing that really sets your videos apart from others. You give helpful instructions for common problems.

    1. Thank you! I'm so happy to hear that was helpful for you!

  2. What is the pad that is over your quilt cabinet that meets your machine bed. Connie

    1. That is a Queen Supreme Slider - a slippery sheet that helps your fabric pieces slide over the machine bed. I use it for quilting too, but re-position it to the front of the machine like this for piecing to make the pieces slide easily up to the presser foot. You can read more about it here:


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